Book Review: The Burning of Cherry Hill by A.K. Butler

Posted November 25, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 7 Comments

Book Review: The Burning of Cherry Hill by A.K. ButlerThe Burning of Cherry Hill by A. K. Butler
Published by Self Published on March 1st, 2013
Genres: adult, dystopia
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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It's 2159. Zay Scot is a fourteen-year-old boy raised on a secret island in hiding from a government he doesn't know exists. After more than a decade of avoiding detection, his fugitive parents are brutally kidnapped and he is thrust into a dizzying world centuries more advanced than the one he left behind. The skies over the United North American Alliance are pollution free. Meals are healthy and delivered to each home. Crime is nonexistent. Medical treatment requires only the scan of your wrist. Poverty, need, and hunger are things studied in history class. But Zay soon finds himself a fugitive, escaping the brute force of a government always a whisper away. Now he must choose between peace and freedom, and if the journey doesn't kill him, what he finds might start a war.

Oh boy. Okay, this is going to be a really bizarre review. First of all, there will be spoilers. I just simply cannot avoid that. So if you read the blurb and think you might want to read this, heed the spoiler warning when it appears later on. There will be a lot of criticism too, but of a very personal kind. Because, you know, I get why people liked this book. I even get why it won an Indie Award. It’s not about that. For me personally, this book was not an enjoyable read. I’ll get to that, but first I want to talk about the genre classification because I believe it’s super important.

This book was pitched to me as a YA dystopia. The blurb made me want to read it, as did the author’s email which was very kind and considerate of my review policy. She promised that if I didn’t like it, there would be no drama. I am very thankful for that. It’s rare when it comes to self-published novels these days. Thing is though, I do not believe this is a YA book. Yes, the protagonist is a teen, but that does not a YA book make. It’s far too graphic, brutal, depressing, and violent. I’m not saying that teens can’t handle that, but I do believe the themes are too mature for a proper YA classification. There are brutal murders, execution killings, rape, lots of graphic tazings, torture, and it hurts. This book literally made me nauseous. I have never been this close to puking before as I was while reading this book. So no. I don’t think it’s a YA book. Would I have still read it if it was pitched to me as an adult dystopia? Yes. Because I like those too. But this book was just simply too much for me. It was disturbing, and I can deal with some amount of that but this book went above and beyond what I could tolerate. And as a teenager, this book would have had me awake at night, disturbed for a week.

View Spoiler »

But you know, if you like that kind of thing, and you are a horror movie aficionado and you love brutal, disturbing things, it might not bother you. Because aside from that, it IS a good book. That’s why I say it’s personal. This could be the best book in the world for someone because I cannot criticize the writing or the story or the world building. It’s pretty awesome. I did feel like some of the characters were cardboard and could have used some more development, but aside from that, I had very few technical issues with the book. No, it was the way it affected me emotionally that I took umbrage with. I did not like the ending and I felt that some of the plot points went too far. 

The book is scary because–though it may go a little overboard–these are very real issues that we face today. If the Patriot Act freaks you out, so will this book. If you think the government has too much control over its people already, this book will likely freak you out. The world building is explained and developed well. I didn’t notice any plot holes. It may be glossed over a bit easily in a couple areas, but it makes sense and that’s all that matters. 

I did, however, have some clarity issues with the writing itself. I do not believe enough attention was paid to the imagery. When you have a world as futuristic as this one, you need to make sure readers can picture what you are talking about. Some of the descriptions were vague and I had issues. Were the cars all hovercrafts? I had trouble picturing the register boxes too, as well as how the medics worked. Little things like that made it a bit confusing. This could have been fixed with a little more editing but honestly, it’s a small thing, and for a self-published novel, this was edited pretty well.

It’s tough for me to say whether I recommend this or not. For the right reader, yes, but if you are like me, no. It depends on what you enjoy in your books. I do want to thank the author for sending a copy to me for review. I only wish I had liked it more.


7 responses to “Book Review: The Burning of Cherry Hill by A.K. Butler

  1. I probably won’t read this. And I’m a huge horror fan. But a well done horror story is tempered with humor and lighter moments, otherwise to me the horrific parts don’t have the same impact. It sounds like this book doesn’t have any of those things.

    • It’s not a horror novel though. It’s definitely a dystopian with disturbing elements that made me THINK of horror shock value. It was meant to mess with your head and it did, unfortunately it went too far for me to see it as entertainment.

  2. The graphic content probably wouldn’t bother me too much, but I couldn’t help but take a look at your spoiler section… and I can see that this won’t be anything that I’d like. If done for shock value alone, things like that can cloud my opinion of the rest of the book. Thanks for the helpful review, Kara. I hope your next read is more satisfying!

  3. Do you know what this reminds me of, based on your review? 1984. And since 1984 is probably my most favourite book of all time, I think I’d enjoy The Burning of Cherry Hill ^_^ It’s gone on my TBR list, anyway, hehe. Thanks for the review, and like Sam I hope your next read is more satisfying for you!

  4. Kara, thank you so much for your honest review! I just found this randomly, and I appreciate deeply that you took the time and energy to read my little story. I am going to, with great hesitation, break my never-respond-to-reviews rule because I just want to publicly apologize.

    I am sorry for how disturbed you were by it. While it was meant to be shocking, I never meant anything in the book to have solely shock value, and I really, honestly apologize you felt manipulated. The end took me 6 months to write and even longer to decide on. I ran it by several friends and other writers and readers asking if they felt it was emotionally manipulative because I specifically did not want it to be. It disturbed me to write – I have a friend in the medical field who physically took the book away and made me take a 2 week break in the middle of writing it because I was literally making myself quite ill – and still disturbs me to this day. I am sorry that it seemed it was done for shock value. That was, truly, not my intent, and I apologize that I was unable to convey what I really meant.

    I am a baby writer, and I love hearing feedback like this. Thank you for being honest, thank you for posting a review even though it was negative, because all this feedback will help me understand how my words are interpreted and, with practice, perhaps I will get better at telling stories that come across as I meant them too.

    Again, I apologize for how disturbing my story was, and I am really, really sorry you felt manipulated. It was never my intent. Honestly. I’m sorry, and thank you.

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